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Clegg poem gives foretaste of Tory/Lib coalition

Posted on 1 May 2010 | 6:05pm

I am a bit confused about Nick Clegg. In his favourite paper, The Guardian, he cites Samuel Beckett as his hero. In another, The Telegraph, WB Yeats is named as his favourite poet.

Beckett may be best known as a playwright, but he was also a poet. I wonder if it is possible to have a hero who is not your favourite exponent of their chosen activity.

The Telegraph was writing about Mr Clegg’s artistic tastes because they have unearthed a poem he wrote aged 17, which was published in The Elizabethan, the school magazine at Westminster, the slighty-less-well-known-but-just-as-posh-as-David’s school that Clegg went to.

It is one of the pitfalls of high office and its pursuit that old lovers, habits, statements, exams, reports and even poems can be deemed fair game for a media suddenly fascinated by every angle of the person going for the top job.

This poem has come to light because when Mr Clegg was asked last week about his most embarrassing moment, he cited its publication, and revealed that it was an ode to adolescent infatuation.

But read it carefully. Once you get past the first line (I think it is fair to say Mr Clegg, in common with most of the country, does not love David Cameron) it could be a remarkable foretaste of what would happen in a Lib-Dem-supporting Tory coalition.

My love blasted you from my mind

Your skin too silken to be seen

Your voice slipping through my brain

Your movements fluttering from within.


But now. Yes, I can see you now,

Too dumb, squatted in my eyes,

Poisoned like a dying pearl,

A killer’s vengeance – twisted.

Enjoy the cuts Nick.

For the rest of you, if you live in one of the 100-plus Tory/Labour marginals, just remember that if you go to bed with Nick next Thursday, you wake up with silken-skinned Dave on Friday morning, and that voice will be slipping through our brains for a few years, announcing change that will damage the economy, public services, and generally take our country backwards to the kind of Britain DC really believes in.

* Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour


  • Paul Evans

    I wonder whether your history of writing about people being screwed should have given us a foretaste of the last decade?

  • pseudograph

    Of course he can have both.

    It’s like claiming George Best is your personal hero but Oliver Reed is your favourite drinker.

    The first can be your hero for the thing he’s really good at, whilst you recognise that there was another thing he did too, just not as well as somebody else. You’re just being silly there.

  • Graham Jones

    Sounds like a love letter to Louis Theroux.

  • johnj

    ‘…Ever tried, Ever failed..
    No matter, Try again, Fail again..
    Fail better’.

    Beckett. From Worstward Ho!

    Sums up politcs pretty clearly I think.

  • Neil_

    LibDem activists would not tolerate coalition with the Tories and Unionists. Amazing last weekend before polling and not one established pollster showing Conservative majority. Many people will hold out until the last minute and probably go back Labour in my opinion as it is clear Cameron cannot win despite everything. He has not been able to seal the deal. Shame more has not been made about them bringing back fox and stag / badger hunting. That will sicken many voters

  • Marcus Hunt

    Cleggie, aka Seth Pecksniff (OW), has ruined everything for me.

    Two of my hero writers ruined by association with that muppet. And he probably hasn’t read either of them…

  • Patrick James

    I think the main problem for Labour over the next few days is the number of people who feel that they will vote Lib Dem.

    As a gay man I know that this is fairly common amongst people with an interest in LGBT issues.

    The Conservatives have been “outed” as totally dishonest about their LGBT “policies”.

    It is true that the Lib Dem LGBT policies are very good.

    But if Labour people vote Lib Dem then it will enable a Conservative government, either as a majority or with the Lib Dems propping it up.

    If the Lib Dems are propping up a Conservative government then we can be pretty sure that the Lib Dems positive policies on LGBT people will not figure highly in their negotiating with the Conservatives.

    This is the discussion I am having with people who have an interest in LGBT issues.

  • Elpheba

    Am I the only person hearing…’Anyone but Camoron (sic)?’ Also how come SKY can be so pro Murdoch. The Foxisation of Sky is almost complete. The Tory press are getting desperate to win yet opposition to the Tories nationally is very difficult. It is all so depressing for me, a headteacher working his butt off. If the Tories win i will be taking my pension and running fast to the hills ( The nearest Labour party office to volunteer full time to get labour back to power.)

  • Darby_87

    Theres been much circulation about what the Lib Dem vote means – The Guardian’s derailment of the left is ridiculous – It states today that if the polls reflect the votes, they can potentially attain 137 seats (going on the assumption that voters in marginal regions think as hard as they do on the ballot as they would on a very fluffy opinion poll) – Which leaves the Guardian advertising a huge act of hypocrisy- they might as well say “We are going to support Mr Clegg, his popularity during the 1st debate will stretch to crosses on the ballot – However, he is never going to be PM, so as a lefty paper, we would like to endorse a hypothetical Tory vote…

    Alastair’s also right about the Brown vs Paxman media blackout – can you hear that echo? B I G O … – Our Sky News still outside Duffy’s house?

  • Tim

    I’m no great fan of what Labour has become in the last 15-20 years, but to me they have the best plan for the economy so they will get my vote again. It concerns me that Gordon Brown’s message on the economy has been somewhat lost by the language he uses. He just doesn’t connect with voters, in my view. If he was honest with the public about the long haul ahead, he could have put his arguments in much simpler terms. There’s an old sporting cliché that goes, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” and I think he could use that kind of analogy to explain why cuts now are a bad thing and continued investment this is vital. After all, if you don’t prepare for a marathon properly you end up sitting on the side of the road as your competitors jog ahead. Simple talk people will remember and understand, rather than repeating the claims about tax credits etc. Be imaginitve, be simple and direct.

    In addition, GB didn’t answer Common Dave on Thursday when taunted about the removal of the 10p tax threshold by reminding him that it was Labour who introduced it. He hasn’t replied to questions about a VAT increase by reminding people that Labour cut it to stimulate growth, so are unlikely to increase it and deflate the economy. At least I haven’t heard him use that argument yet. He has also not gone hard enough on the voting record of Conservatives, who voted against all the measures put in place to keep our economy supported. Gordon could point out that things are bad, but without the stimulus package he put together with Mr Darling, it could all have been far worse.

    The Tories claim to be the party of business but voted against the Business Payment Support Service and Enterprise Guarantee Scheme, for example.

    So much is not being communicated well… I’ve watched as much election coverage as I can and I’ve heard none of this, so I hope these kinds of things are driven home this week and we can avoid a Tory government.

  • Chris

    We fight to win. Alastair- please tell Gordon & team: BE POSTIVE. Negative attacks on Tory cutbacks are getting stale. You can’t sell something just by talking down a competitor. You have to spell out the benefits of what you are selling.

    We have to make ourselves look good. Labour has been working. For instance the minimum wage, devolution, civil partnerships & saving the banking system. Wish I still had John Prescott’s 1997 pledge card.

    Chris, London leaflet deliverer

  • Frazer

    “Westminster, the slighty-less-well-known-but-just-as-posh-as-David’s school that Clegg went to.”

    Slightly hypocritical.

    TB went to Fettes, one of the poshest and elite schools in Scotland.

  • Colin Morley

    Alastair – This is one of your most desperate blogs ever! I’m sorry Gordon made such an ass of himself and lost it for you. But don’t imagine (ever) that Clegg is made of the same stuff as Cameron. I’m sure that if you or I were leading a party (heaven forbid in either case!) somebody would dredge up some piece of doggerel from our past that made us look like twats.

    I’m genuinely sorry for Labour, but the Lib Dems have to be the next best and will have to deal with Labour – just too bad that Gordon may have to step aside.

  • kate law

    You’re confused that his hero is not his favourite poet? I love Noel Coward but he’s not my favourite painter. I don’t think it’s that difficult to comprehend.

    Failure to understand that respect is nuanced is a bit of a hindrance in your line of work, surely? Just because you support something, it doesn’t mean you should follow it blindly without any criticism. This is revealing far more about your state of mind than Cleggs. Don’t worry, after Thursday you can become a human being again, rather shout Labour positivity you don’t believe.

    Terrible poem though, and you’re right, there is something of the ‘dying pearl’ about Cameron 🙂

  • Josh

    As the sun sets on New Labour, one is reminded of the brilliant Coleridge, whose poem ‘the Sunset’ must provide Gordon with moments of intense anguish. To Tories like me, I would have used the poem as a friend during 1997 when New Labour cruised to power with fewer votes than John Major in 1997, or Mrs Thatcher in 1979 and 1987.

    Mr Campbell, dosen’t the fact that New Labour have achieved power on such low turnouts and actual votes cast put rest to the myth that Blair was an electoral machine. In 2001, you won fewer votes than Kinnock in 1992 and Callaghan in 1979. In 2005, you won with fewer votes than Major in 1997! You won because we Tories were so utterly useless, and however much it annoys me, are still utterly useless. Blair reached 60% in the opinion polls. Cameron peaked at 52%

  • Andrew Holden

    Surely Labour can ‘arrange’ for a member of the public to meet Mr. Cameron on one of his walkabouts, and ask him a couple of questions along the lines of…..

    “Mr. Cameron, do you really think the British public believe you when you say you will reduce the defecit, cut taxes AND increase NHS spending ?
    Why can’t you come clean with us about your plans in your emergency budget ?
    Which taxes will you be putting up, how big will the spending cuts be, and how many 100’s of thousands of jobs will be lost ?
    I am terrified of what you will have in store for my family, my mortgage and my job in this emergency budget of yours.
    Absolutely terrified !”

    Andrew Holden

  • Cromwell

    Never liked Clegg, always thought he was a trojan horse.

    GB should show a fighting spirit and not talk one, like that shown by Hilary Clinton during the last days of her primary campaign. People reward tenacity and resilience.

    Sometimes let GB pause to allow points made to hit home… he has a tendency to rush the points. It is still his election to loose… at least to get the largest number of MPs.

    Please, Please, Please ask the PM to exclaim what he means by “taking money out of the economy”. I do understand but a lot of people won’t get it. My understanding of the “economy” in this case means the support the government gives the public sectors, like the police, schools, this also includes private sector contracts, etc.
    The economy also means more than that, hence the confusion that urgently needs clearing if that point is to gain stronger traction.
    GB is not helping himself enough. Why has he not mentioned the profit the nation was going to make from the takeover of RBS (estimated to be about £50 billion), why has he not compared the growth in the economy of 0.2%… that’s about £500 million growth, to the £6 billion the Tories were going to extract from the public sector. That makes the point stronger than just saying the Tories would take £6 billion out of the economy. THAT NEEDS TO BE UPDATED.

    Also I would recommend firing squad for the campaign organisers.

    GB would do himself more good to walk out on the street and campaign, with his security, Peter Mandelson and wife.
    At least he would be meeting the people he governed for years now. It is more dynamic and exciting, even if he is heckled or punched or egged. It is way better than what he is doing now.
    That I think is what people need to see.TALKING TO PEOPLE, SHOWING CONCERN FOR THEIR PROBLEMS, DOING SOME WORK HIMSELF. Get GB to the people. Duffy would not even matter then.

  • Bar Bar of Oz

    Nick Clegg is the last person standing between a hung Parliament and a Tory absolute majority. Isn’t it more important for Labour to stop a Tory clean sweep at all costs? Apparently not, going by Labour’s tactics in the last two debates which allowed DC to recover his credibility. Apparently from Labour’s perspective better a Tory majority than the Lib Dems (of the left) having the balance of power with Labour (also of left). Otherwise why be attacking Clegg today?

  • may

    Hi Alastair,

    i was so sorry for Mrs Duffy – she looked so shocked and no wonder. However as someone who also always voted Labour I think she is wrong to turn her back on the Labour Party now.

    If she wants the best for herself and for her two young grandsons she will vote Labour on the 6th and encourage those around her to do the same.

    She won’t be voting for Gordon Brown – the people of Kircaldy will do that. If she doesn’t use her vote she will have been fooled by the media into thinking this as a presidential election.

    I wish her all the best whatever she decides.

  • Alan Quinn

    The tories have lost a 20 point lead in less than 3 months, they should be polling in the high 40s but they can’t get past 38%. Cameron showed his lack of leadership ability when he agreed to do the leadership debates with a big lead in the polls and in 90 minutes he lost any chance of a clear parliamentary majority.
    Despite being in office for 3 terms, despite the worst recession for 6o yrs, despite Ashcroft’s millions buying up every billboard in the marginals, despite a media onslaught on Brown and despite the media giving Cameron an easy ride Labour isn’t trailing by that much even despite GB’s gaffe.
    I’ve been working my patch since the new year, there is no attraction to Cameron, we work to win because despite our faults Labour is the best and fairest party.

  • Theresa

    What is your honest opinion on the personal attacks on Gordon Brown & also what is your view on the media coverage – especially the (in my view) the Sky/Tory coverage?

  • Nick

    What has been so noticeable and interesting in this, the last few days of the Labour regime, is the way their senior spokesman have resorted to an almost entirely negative message. Outright falsehoods like “vote Tory and you will have less police by July” are now being uttered. It is dreadful stuff. I have been involved as a political activist in 8 election campaigns now, this has been by a distance Labour’s weakest campaign and is even worse than what they put forward in 1983.

    P.S: I though Campbell’s widely televised comment to ITN’s Lucy Manning after the 3rd debate on Thursday was ignorant, bullying and in its own way quite revealing about what is wrong with the Labour Party.

  • penfro charlie


    Apologies for being a pedant and pulling you up for a spelling mistake when I do exactly the same thing and misspell “deficit”! That’ll teach me a lesson!